Visits to the Victoria Falls and the Hwange Game Park are obligatory for anyone visiting Zimbabwe, or Zambia for that matter. Two nights were spent in thatched cottages within Hwange. The night sky was amazingly clear as it was unfamiliar. A myriad of stars shone brightly and it took time to identify the Southern Cross. Animals came into the compound. We picked out a small group of impala, delicate, light brown in the car headlights. In the morning banded mongoose scurried over to clear up bacon rind after breakfast.
The big cats were elusive and we saw no lion or cheetah, although one morning we heard the lion roar close by. We were told they had been seen by the road near the camp, but they were nowhere to be seen when we went to see.
Down by the water holes there was more to see. Inactive crocodiles basked in the winter sun to build up their body heat. Humps protruding from the water were all that could be seen of the hippopotamus. On one occasion we were treated to some action as they yanked large tufts of grass from the bank. A bird on the back of one of them had to hop on and off as the gigantic hulk submerged.
One morning we came across ostrich with their young feeding. The miniature birds were like toy models of the adults, their bodies still the shape of an egg.
At another pan two haughty kudu, with their twisting horns were taking water. This was a most impressive sight.
Hwange has the largest number of elephants in Africa and we weren’t disappointed. The first we spotted were lone males, but later we stumbled across the herd with female elephants with their young. On another occasion a herd descended to the water hole spraying water everywhere.
Giraffe were in evidence and seeing them among the trees as well as on the plains gave us a great feeling that we were seeing their natural habitat. Zebra were less evident, but some appeared on cue. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys would appear by the road side and at watering holes.
The rhinoceros, particularly the black rhino, is increasingly rare, and there is concern that poachers will kill those remaining. I just caught a television programme of someone who crashed their microlight aircraft while trying to track down a tagged animal. He was extremely lucky to survive in the remote area in which he was searching.
I am still taking a course of anti-malaria tablets ob account of visiting the Zambezi Valley. I am not aware of being bitten on this occasion, although my cousin, Adrian, proved they existed by showing me a blood-filled specimen in the loo at Victoria Falls!
While the spectacle of the Falls themselves is amazing, the walk through the rain forest, kept moist by the spray, is itself an adventure. The path takes you through an environment which has been well captured in one of the biospheres at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The first torrent is the cataract where the water rushes more horizontally tahn vertically at first, contrasting with the huge, extensive vertical drop extending across the border into Zambia. The panorama takes in intermittent islands including palm trees. Amazingly one of the erections is not a tree at all, but a radio mast cunningly disguised as a palm tree!. How could any planning allow it!
The view of the falls comes and goes as spray is cleared by the breeze, and visitors become exceedingly wet. Fortunately it does not take long to dry out in the warm winter sun.
On the walk back we encounter a party of baboons on the path in front of us. If we are still they ignore us, but quickly run off as we approach.
We settled for lunch on the banks of the Zambezi. Whether this was such a good idea I had my doubts as elephant and hippopotamus prints were clearly visible in the mud. The elephant droppings we had just passed were fresh! This is not to mention the crocodile which I’m sure would be very happy to share lunch.
Nearby is the fabled Baobab Tree. Details of this are given on an extensive blog ” My Home, Zimbabwe”. Worth viewing.
On the way back to Hwange we pass lorry after lorry with its load of raw copper from Zambia on its way to export.